Welcome back to the second part of Fiona’s spotlight post. I’d like to share an interview with you, and have included information about Fiona and her work at the bottom of the post as a reminder.
Interview with Fiona Ingram
- How do you market your work? What avenues have you found work best?
When I first began a career as a fiction writer, I knew absolutely nothing about marketing. I thought you wrote a book and people flocked to buy it. I did a lot of research and found a site called Author Marketing Experts. Two great and unforgettable pieces of advice from them are: “Do something every day to market your book, no matter what it is” and “Tell everyone you know about your book because word-of-mouth is the best form of marketing and it’s free!”
- How did you choose the genre you write in?
Writing for middle grade readers was a total accident that came about after I went to Egypt with my late mom and my two young nephews, then aged 10 and 12. They really put the magic into exploring a new and exotic location and that sparked my own memories of the childhood magical belief in fantastic possibilities and adventures. I wrote a short story about our escapade in Egypt. It turned into a book and then a book series.
- Do you suffer from writers’ block?
Never. If I am not sure about a certain part of the story then I focus on another scene. When I get back to the ‘sticky’ scene, I find the characters have carried on without me and basically sorted out the hurdle.
- Do you use an outline or just write?
A combination of both works for me, whatever genre I am writing in. I have an idea, I scribble some basic notes (beginning, middle and ending) and then gradually break it into chapters/scenes, making notes of maybe just a line or 2, and then I get started. Often the story takes me into sub plots I hadn’t even thought of. Sometimes I see whole scenes in my head which may actually happen much later in the book. In my MG book series, I have the outline of every book already done, along with the various important elements that have to appear.
- What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
As you know, Book 2: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is enjoying its launch (so please tell everyone you know!) but I am about to wrap up Book 3: The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper. I hope that it’ll be published early in 2015 since my artist is forging ahead with the cover and interior graphics. I am about halfway through Book 4: The Cabal of the Ouroboros, also very exciting because a lot of the action takes place underground in the catacombs of Paris. On the international front, my Japanese publisher just sent me print copies of Book 1: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab in Japanese, so hopefully the series will garner some young fans from that country.
- What has been the toughest criticism you’ve received, and the best compliment?
So far I haven’t received any tough criticisms, and maybe that’s because children’s books are perceived in a less critical light? Not sure. My best compliments: this is what a few reviewers have said about Book 2: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. “Ingram brings history alive in her writing…” “Ingram describes her characters and locales in such a vivid way that the reader cannot help but picture themselves right there alongside the cousins.” “Ingram’s storytelling is masterful; she adroitly weaves historical fact and fantasy in a smooth and fluid style that makes reading this book both an exciting and intellectually satisfying treat.”
- What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by another writer?
The best pieces of advice I have ever received are: 1. Never give up. 2. Make sure your book meets the highest levels of the publishing industry’s standards. 3. Tell everyone you know about your book.
- Is there any advice you’d like to share?
This advice is for parents. If any readers are parents or have young relatives, the best gift you can give them is a love of reading. Enjoying reading is a learned skill, and a clever parent will encourage an enjoyment of reading by spending just a few minutes a day reading to and with their child. Reading then becomes associated with a pleasurable experience. If your child is a bit older, then encourage them to read anything that interests them, even comics. A child who loves to read will have a wonderful start in life and seek out knowledge on their own later on.
- Do you start with character or plot?
Interestingly, it’s a bit of both. Luckily for me, I had my characters more or less settled because they are modelled on real young people. The plot kind of made itself up and has become more complex and interesting with each book. I do write other books in other genres and there I find I just need the germ of an idea and the plot and characters unfold together.
- In your words, what defines a good story?
A tale that captures and keeps its audience’s attention from the first to the last page.
- What kind of questions do you ask yourself when you get an idea for a project?
Do I have time to include this in the list of things I am already doing…?
Fiona Ingram was born and educated in South Africa, and has worked as a full-time journalist and editor. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and legends, and her enjoyment of travel resulted in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—The Chronicles of the Stone. This was inspired by a family trip the author took with her mom and two young nephews aged ten and twelve at the time. The book began as a short story for her nephews and grew from there. The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is a treat for young King Arthur fans. Fiona is busy with Book 3 entitled The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, set in Mexico.
While writing The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, Fiona fostered (and later adopted) a young African child from a disadvantaged background. Her daughter became the inspiration for the little heroine, Kim, in The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. Interestingly, the fictional character’s background and social problems are reflected in the book as Kim learns to deal with life. Fiona’s experiences in teaching her daughter to read and to enjoy books also inspired many of her articles on child literacy and getting kids to love reading.
About The Chronicles of the Stone Book Series:
Book One, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab:
A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. Only when the evil Dr. Faisal Khalid shows a particular interest in the
cousins and their scarab, do the boys realise they are in terrible danger. Dr. Khalid wants the relic at all costs. Justin and Adam embark upon the adventure of a lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. They are plunged into a whirlpool of hazardous and mysterious events when Dr. Khalid kidnaps them. They learn more about the ancient Seven Stones of Power and the mysterious Shemsu-Hor. They must translate the hieroglyphic clues on the underside of the scarab, as well as rescue the missing archaeologist James Kinnaird, and their friend, the Egyptologist Ebrahim Faza, before time runs out!
Book Two, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur:
A modern day adventure as our protagonists search for Excalibur and the treasures it holds!
Continuing the adventure that began in Egypt a few months prior in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair are hot on the trail of the second Stone of Power, one of seven ancient stones lost centuries ago. This stone might be embedded in the hilt of a newly discovered sword that archaeologists believe belonged to King Arthur: Excalibur.
However, their long-standing enemy, Dr. Khalid, is following them as they travel to Scotland to investigate an old castle. Little do they know there is another deadly force, the Eaters of Poison, who have their own mission to complete. Time is running out as the confluence of the planets draws closer. Can Justin and Adam find the second Stone of Power and survive? And why did Aunt Isabel send a girl with them?
Join Justin and Adam as they search not only for the second Stone of Power, but also for the Scroll of the Ancients, a mysterious document that holds important clues to the Seven Stones of Power. As their adventure unfolds, they learn many things and face dangers that make even their perils in Egypt look tame. And how annoying for them that their tag-along companion, Kim, seems to have such good ideas when they are stumped.